Eleanor Ford's Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry

'One of the most memorable meals of my life was a pumpkin curry eaten late at night after arriving in the mountain-ringed city of Kandy. The explosive flavours were the perfect antidote to a long, dusty bus journey. Sri Lankans are truly masters of spicing, using native cinnamon alongside myriad others for deep complexity. Here is my attempt to recreate that meal. The sweetly earthy curry is paired, as it was that night, with a fresh and vibrant coconut sambal.'

For the Curry 

  • 700g (1lb 9oz) Delica pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 400g (14oz) sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 green finger chillies, seeds in, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 200ml (generous 3/4 cup) coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Juice of a lime

For the Coconut Sambal


  1. Prepare the pumpkin by removing the seeds and cutting into 3cm (11/4 inch) chunks. You can keep any thin skin on for more texture or peel if you prefer. Peel the sweet potato and cut into 4cm (11/2 inch) chunks.
  2. Heat the oil in a casserole pan over a medium–high heat. Scatter in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves and let them splutter and pop.
  3. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes to soften before adding the garlic and chilli and cooking for a few minutes longer.
  4. Stir in the ground spices, waiting for the fragrance to hit you. Add the coconut milk, salt and 100ml (scant 1/2 cup) water. Stir in the pumpkin and sweet potato and bring to a bubble.
  5. Cover, turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25–35 minutes, until tender.
  6. Rest with the lid on for 15 minutes to let the flavours develop. Taste for seasoning and finish with a squeeze of lime juice.
  7. For the coconut sambal, mix all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Serve alongside the curry with the rice or flatbreads, if you like.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

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